My grandmother passed away last year before the mango season started. It was the first death in my immediate family. One of the restrictions during this mourning period was that we could not cook food that day in our house. One hardly is in the spirit to eat , plus with all the people and hushed activity, dinner was a half hearted affair at 7.30pm and already a distant memory by nightfall.
At 1 am I cracked open my squeaky door as noiselessly as possible and tip toed into the kitchen only to bump into my Dad who looked as guilty rummaging through the kitchen cabinets. Kind friends and relatives had left an assortment of food and we hungry co-conspirators proceeded to compile a thoroughly Gujju midnight snack. Ever since Kareena Kapoor’s drunk cameo in 3 idiots disparaging Gujju food nomenclature, it pains me to justify my culinary heritage. After all, what is in a name, a ‘thepla’ will taste as satisfying if called thép- à- la.
As we hunted for the ideal accompaniment – ‘chunda’ ( tiny slivers of mango in a chutney that it sweet sour and spicy!) it dawned on us at the same time ‘she was the provider of pickles’ ! I don’t remember my grandmother ever cooking a meal but boy could she whip up scrumptious accompaniments to every meal! From tangy chutneys and jars of preserves to ghee dripping mithai and spicy snacks, but above all she was the provider of pickles. True to household tradition, every summer mangoes would be ordered, cut dried, salted,well pickled and bottled to last a whole year before the next mango season arrived.
Dad and I looked at each other and panicked, it was the end of a mango year. This time there would be no replenishing the stock. Smiling at the memories, we carefully spooned out a bit of the last pulpy layer of pickle from the jar.